hero of the Battle of Bennington
John Stark was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on August 28, 1728. He and his family moved to Derryfield (now Manchester) when he was eight, and he lived there the rest of his life.
On April 28, 1752, while on a hunting and trapping trip along the Baker River, Stark was captured by Abenaki warriors and taken to Canada. In the Abenaki village, he and a fellow prisoner were made to "run a gauntlet" of warriors armed with sticks, but Stark grabbed the stick from the first warrior's hands and proceeded to attack him. The Abenaki chief was so impressed with Stark's actions that he adopted Stark into the tribe. Stark was released the following spring when an agent from the Province of Massachusetts Bay paid a ransom. Despite being their prisoner, Stark came to respect the Abenaki.
Commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon outbreak of the French and Indian War, Stark was attached to Robert Rogers' Rangers, a regiment of mostly American men led by British officers. In 1758, Stark's father died and he obtained a leave of absence so he could help settle the estate. During this time he met Elizabeth "Molly" Page, whom he married on August 20, 1758. In 1759, General Jeffery Amherst ordered Rogers' Rangers to attack an Abenaki stronghold in Quebec. Stark refused to participate, however, out of respect for his adopted people. He subsequently returned home and spent the next several years building a substantial estate.
On April 23, 1775, Stark accepted a commission as Colonel in the New Hampshire Militia. He and his men played a major part in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, after which his unit was attached to the Continental Army under General George Washington. After reinforcing the Continental Army's invasion of Canada in the spring of 1776, Stark and his men joined Washington's main army in New Jersey. His unit subsequently took part in the New Jersey Campaign and comprised the right wing at the Battle of Trenton.
In 1777, Stark was sent back to New Hampshire to recruit new troops. He initially carried out this assignment with enthusiasm and success, but then learned that he had been passed over for promotion in favor of a man who had very little military experience but greater social standing. On March 23, 1777, he appeared before the Exeter (New Hampshire) Legislature and resigned his commission. The Legislature accepted his commission and gave him a vote of thanks for his service. Stark did promise to provide immediate assistance to New Hampshire should the need arise.
Stark had spent four months as a private citizen when the Exeter Legislature asked him to accept a commission as Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia. He agreed, but only on condition that he answer only to New Hampshire and not to any Continental officer. He was subsequently ordered to join General Philip Schuyler at Saratoga, but chose to go to Bennington instead. There, on August 16, 1777, his New Hampshire forces completely routed a German/British/Indian army led by General Friedrich Baum. He was rewarded for his actions by finally gaining his promotion to Brigadier General in the Continental Army, on October 4, 1777.
Stark participated with distinction in several other engagements throughout the remaining years of the war, but spent most of the colder months at home due to severe rheumatism. He was given a personal thanks by Washington and the rank of Major General by brevet in 1783, and spent the rest of his life as a private citizen. He died at his Derryfield estate on May 8, 1822.
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This page was last updated on October 20, 2014.